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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and Holland: Vols. XIV–XV. 1876–79.

Spain: Rio Verde

The Rio Verde

By From the Spanish

  • Translated by Bishop Percy
  • This wild oleander-fringed mountain-torrent is translated by Bishop Percy as a “gentle river with willowed shore”: assuredly the prelate never crossed it, as we have done, when swollen by a heavy rain; but as he said “green would not sound well,” what would he have done with the Red Sea? This river is one of sad recollections in the ballads of Spain. On the hills above, Alonzo de Aguilar, with the flower of Andalucian chivalry, was waylaid and put to death by El Feri of Benastapar.—Murray’s Handbook of Spain.

  • GENTLE river, gentle river,

    Lo, thy streams are stained with gore,

    Many a brave and noble captain

    Floats along thy willowed shore.

    All beside thy limpid waters,

    All beside thy sands so bright,

    Moorish Chiefs and Christian Warriors

    Joined in fierce and mortal fight.

    Lords and dukes and noble princes

    On thy fatal banks were slain:

    Fatal banks that gave to slaughter

    All the pride and flower of Spain.

    There the hero, brave Alonzo,

    Full of wounds and glory, died:

    There the fearless Urdiales

    Fell a victim by his side.

    Lo! where yonder Don Saavedra

    Through their squadrons slow retires;

    Proud Seville, his native city,

    Proud Seville his worth admires.

    Close behind a Renegado

    Loudly shouts with taunting cry:

    “Yield thee, yield thee, Don Saavedra,

    Dost thou from the battle fly?

    “Well I know thee, haughty Christian,

    Long I lived beneath thy roof;

    Oft I ’ve in the lists of glory

    Seen thee win the prize of proof.

    “Well I know thy aged parents,

    Well thy blooming bride I know;

    Seven years I was thy captive,

    Seven years of pain and woe.

    “May our prophet grant my wishes!

    Haughty chief, thou shalt be mine:

    Thou shalt drink that cup of sorrow

    Which I drank when I was thine.”

    Like a lion turns the warrior,

    Back he sends an angry glare:

    Whizzing came the Moorish javelin,

    Vainly whizzing through the air.

    Back the hero full of fury

    Sent a deep and mortal wound:

    Instant sunk the Renegado,

    Mute and lifeless on the ground.

    With a thousand Moors surrounded,

    Brave Saavedra stands at bay:

    Wearied out, but never daunted,

    Cold at length the warrior lay.

    Near him fighting great Alonzo

    Stout resists the Paynim bands;

    From his slaughtered steed dismounted

    Firm entrenched behind him stands.

    Furious press the hostile squadron,

    Furious he repels their rage:

    Loss of blood at length enfeebles:

    Who can war with thousands wage!

    Where yon rock the plain o’ershadows,

    Close beneath its foot retired,

    Fainting sunk the bleeding hero,

    And without a groan expired.